The dark clouds looming over Tracy Aviary on Wednesday scared away any visitors.

The place is a ghost town when the rain comes. With no indoor space, there is no place to hide from the storm.

That's why the aviary is asking voters in November to approve Proposition 1, a $19.6 million bond.

"I think we need some more indoor space, don't you," Davis Mulholland, chairman of the aviary's board of directors, joked as a handful of local reporters and camera crews stood in the rain waiting for Wednesday's press conference to start.

Building more indoor space is just one of many things Tracy Aviary officials plan to do with the money. Aviary officials will also renovate several facilities and add walk-through exhibits and an entryway plaza.

The facility is obviously aging, with its old-fashioned, rusted cages. The aviary was in such bad shape in 2006 that the Association of Zoos and Aquariums yanked its accreditation.

Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon believes the $19.6 bond will put the aviary on "strong financial footing."

"The aviary has suffered from decades of uninvestment," Corroon said. "It would be unconscionable for us to let the aviary die a slow death."

The bond would add about $2.50 to the annual property tax bill on a $235,000 home in Salt Lake County for 15 years.

Tim Brown, the aviary's executive director, asked voters to approve the bond so the aviary can make "critically important renovations."

"Proposition 1 will help put Tracy Aviary on a sound financial footing for the future," Brown said. "That's what leadership and fiscal responsibility are all about."

If voters approve the bond, the aviary will get $13.5 million right away. But in order to get the rest of the money, aviary officials must raise $1.5 million in private funds.

Salt Lake City voters approved a $1.1 million bond in 2003 to fund the "Birds of Argentina" exhibit at the Tracy Aviary.

Tracy Aviary isn't the only animal exhibit seeking additional tax money. Hogle Zoo officials are also asking for a bond on the November Ballot.

Proposition 2 would give the zoo $33 million in property-tax revenue to build out it's master plan. If voters approve the bond, however, the zoo won't see a penny until it raises $11 million in private funding.

If approved, the zoo bond would raise property taxes by $4 a year for 20 years on a $235,000 home.


E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com